The leading organic foods company stands for empowerment of women, with a 60% female workforce
◊ By Athar P (with inputs from Sudha Narasimhachar)
With a majority of its workforce comprising women and hundreds of female farm workers directly contributing to its production capabilities, Bengaluru based Pro Nature Organic Foods is actively working towards women’s empowerment—both in rural and urban arenas.
Boldly brandishing a logo declaring its “Powered by Women” status across branding collaterals, the 11-year-old organic food marketeer aspires to introduce more women into the organic profession in its endeavour to empower rural and marginalised women, as well as, bolster entrepreneurship in urban women.
“Since 2006, Pro Nature has positively impacted the livelihoods of hundreds of rural women and we are committed to increasing this impact significantly every year. Women are excellent managers, are deeply committed, responsible and have a sense of ownership about whatever they do”
VARUN GUPTA, FOUNDER, PRO NATURE ORGANIC FOODS
In alignment with this goal, Pro Nature provides employment to hundreds of rural women in Maharashtra, as well as, to women hailing from tribal communities in the states of Odisha, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh. Furthermore, more than 60% of its employees across functions—Operations, Administration, Finance, Sales and Marketing—are women.
HELPING HER PITCH IN
Thirty eight-year-old Punyavati of Udaya Nagar had never worked outside domestic capacity prior to joining Pro Nature five years ago. A mother of two, her salary at the firm as a senior supervisor helps sustain the engineering course of her disabled daughter, as well as, contributes towards the Industrial Training Institute course being pursued by her son. “My husband is a tailor and we could ill afford our children’s education on his earnings alone. I am glad I was given work when I had never worked a day in my life. My sincere efforts were recognised and I have been promoted to the post of senior supervisor in the despatch section, where I oversee the work of 15 employees,” she beams.
Another woman, Asha S from Kaggadasapura, is with the company since the age of 18. Now 22, she has risen to the rank of a supervisor trainee in the production unit, with 20 workers under her vigilant gaze.
WOMEN HAVE IT!
The pro women stance stems from the founder, Varun Gupta’s, belief that empowering women is the need of the hour in an inherently patriarchal society such as prevalent in India. He is of the opinion that women have sound management skills and possess a sense of ownership about the companies/brands that fall under their incumbency. “Since 2006, Pro Nature has positively impacted the livelihoods of hundreds of rural women and we are committed to increasing this impact significantly every year. Women are excellent managers, are deeply committed, responsible and have a sense of ownership about whatever they do,” he says.
Besides salaried remuneration, the women employees of Pro Nature are supported by the firm by dint of interest-free loans for their children’s education. Attrition is limited by taking away some of the impediments that cause women to drop out of the workforce—pick and drop facility is provided to all women workers at the production unit, and support is given for children’s admissions if required. “The atmosphere here is congenial for women and our efforts are recognised. It is a good feeling,” says Asha, who says she may never consider a job change.
FARM TO FACTORY
Over 400 women farm workers are engaged by Pro Nature for production annually and the company’s target is to double the impact every year. “Our efforts have been recognised by Women on Wings, a social enterprise, which aims to create one million jobs for women in rural India,” says Gupta, who is also actively involved with an initiative of the not for profit, TIE Women, ‘Project AIRSWEEE’ (All India Road Show on Women’s Economic Empowerment through Entrepreneurship), which is aimed at fostering entrepreneurship amongst aspiring young women in tier 2 and 3 cities. Through this platform, he currently mentors five women entrepreneurs in food and agri business.
Founded in 2006, Pro Nature Organic sells its certified organic food products through over 3,000 retail stores across South and West India and is now taking steps toward expansion to Northern India. Prior to its founding, Gupta was an employee harbouring entrepreneurial aspirations at an agri exports company till the year 2000. His dream transformed into reality, he now looks forward to the denouement of a global footprint, while also contributing to the elevation of women through sustained employment and mentorship.